DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) – If you’re an avid golfer, you probably don’t expect to see bald eagles flying around the course. But at the Harrison Park Golf Course in Danville, people sometimes come out just to watch one eagle family. That’s why Wednesday was an exciting day – a rescue center released two eaglets there.
“When they first called about this nest, I was like – there’s a nest? On a golf course? In Danville?” Illinois Raptor Center Program Director Jacques Nuzzo said. “That’s pretty exciting to me considering there was a time when this bird almost disappeared.”
The national symbol was once in danger of extinction, but populations bounced back. And for several years, a family of them has been living on the Harrison Park Golf Course.
“They drive by and sometimes the eagles will be building their nest and dropping sticks down. The golfers have to be careful not to get hit on the head while they’re building their nest,” photographer Wayne Haugen said.
Haugen calls them the Van Dyke family.
“The white head seemed to fit in too with the Dick Van Dyke theme. Of course, I’ve got a little bit of white hair myself, so we somehow communicate with one another,” Haugen said.
Back in April, the Van Dyke nest collapsed with three eaglets inside. One died, another survived, but the last one needed Nuzzo’s help over at the Raptor Center.
“And then when we rebuilt the nest, we put the two chicks back and one of them just wouldn’t stay in there,” Nuzzo said.
So, he rescued the wounded eaglet. Then, the Department of Natural Resources brought another one to the center. Months later, he says both birds are ready to fly away.
“Since we figured they’re both Danville eagles, we’re just going to bring them back together and let them go,” Nuzzo said.
They released both eagles on the golf course. Even though Nuzzo is used to the job, he said it’s great to watch them soar.
“There’s all this money going into it and then you see them fly off and it’s like, ‘that’s worth it. All of it is worth it,'” he said.
But one question remains.
“Will the Van Dykes come back? We just don’t know. We’re hoping,” Haugen said.
They say the eagles will start nesting again in November. And time will tell if the Van Dykes keep the golf course their home.
Photos used in this story are courtesy of Wayne Haugen.